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Dwyer’s boss talks values on Capitol Hill


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House Speaker Paul Ryan, left, with Dina Dwyer-Owens and Texas Rep. Bill Flores.

When the King of Jordan couldn’t make the dinner at which he was to deliver the keynote speech to the Republican Congressional Institute Retreat last January, Dwyer Group Co-chair Dina Dwyer-Owens was elevated from break-out session speaker to the main stage.

“You could hear a pin drop,” said Jeremy Deutsch, chief of staff for the House Republican Conference, about her speech. “I didn’t see a lot of people on their BlackBerrys or iPhones,” which, he added is unusual for a long political dinner with speeches.

Dwyer-Owen’s subject? What she’s been preaching to the 13 Dwyer Group service companies for decades: Living their values.

How Dwyer-Owens came to be one of two keynoters in front of about 225 Republican representatives and their spouses involved a fortuitous meeting set up by the International Franchise Association’s staff back in September and around five years of prayer. “I’m a very prayerful person,” Dwyer-Owens said.  

Four or five years ago, she said she started imagining what it would be like if government leaders lived their values daily. And she started praying about it.

The answer to her prayers

Visiting Capitol Hill has been a constant on Dwyer-Owens’ agenda, as both a business owner and former chairwoman of the IFA. Last year, she asked IFA’s staff to find someone besides Texans for her to talk to about the issues. They set up an appointment with Cathy McMorris Rodgers, the highest-ranking woman in the House. Dwyer-Owens envisioned talking about the joint-employer act, VetFran and women in the trades. The Dwyer Group is the holding company for brands such as Mr. Rooter and Glass Doctor.

A hallmark of her visits to the Hill, Dwyer-Owens said, is to ask if she can introduce herself via a two-minute video on the Waco-based Dwyer Group. During a segment on how employees all recite the company’s Code of Ethics when three or more staff members meet, McMorris Rodgers stopped her. The congresswoman said her staff had been struggling to find a way to incorporate the values they had come up with into their daily rituals. Dwyer-Owens told her she was returning to D.C. in the next few weeks, and would be happy to talk to staff about assigning an acronym to their values, and applying tangible ways to both act on them and measure them.

Dwyer-Owens spent an hour training the representative’s staff, and another hour talking to her. That’s when McMorris Rodgers invited Dwyer-Owens to  attend the Republican Congressional retreat in January. “I want to get you in front of Paul Ryan,” who had just been elected speaker of the House, Dwyer-Owens remembered her saying.

The conference had three speakers talking about values, Dwyer-Owens said. She attended the major sessions where she talked to both senators and representatives about the issues affecting franchising, as well as values. She said it was gratifying to see how many leaders were up to speed on what franchising entailed. “I’m not sure that would have been the case 10 years ago,” she said. “You have to give IFA credit.”

The thing that surprised her, she admitted, was how often the group prayed together. Most of it was centered around mealtime, she said, but it involved more than one person praying and different religions.

She was also able to get her second book, Values, Inc., into the hands of the politicians attending the event, and the book’s a winner. Forbes magazine called it one of the Top 10 Business Books for 2015.

How did the training work out for McMorris Rodgers’ staff? “It’s been night and day,” said Deutsch, chief of staff. “It’s where we want to be and we hold each other accountable.”

Who’s next? Dwyer-Owens is not opposed to talking to Democrats. Just call her.

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